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Seminar Ancient Philosophy: The Theaetetus of Plato


Admission requirements

This class can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA programme in Classics and Ancient Civilisations (track Classics).
Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics or Philosophy obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree have to contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.


The Theaetetus shows Plato at his best. In this dialogue, a playful Socrates famously presents himself as an intellectual midwife who himself knows nothing, but helps others to give birth to their ideas about one of the most fundamental questions in Greek thought: “what is knowledge?”. Not surprisingly, there has always been much interest in this intriguing work, which has resulted in many, often very different, interpretations.

In this seminar we will read the Theaetetus along with some of the most important commentaries and studies. In doing so, we’ll pay attention both to the philosophical and literary aspects of the dialogue and to the question of how these complement each other. In conclusion of this seminar, we will discuss the merits of the various approaches to the dialogue as a whole that have been put forward in recent publications about this dialogue.

Course objectives

  • The student acquires an in-depth understanding of Plato’s philosophy, and of his epistemology in particular;

  • The student aquires an awareness of the philosophical relevance of the literary features of Plato’s dialogues;

  • The student is trained to analyse a complex ancient philosophical text and the pertaining modern scholarly literature;

  • The student is trained to present his findings, both orally and in writing.


The timetable is available on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 5 ec x 28 hours = 140 hours:

  • Amount of lecture: 26 hours ( 2 hours per week x 13 = 26 hours);

  • Preparation for class: 18 hours (1,5 hours per week x 12 = 18 hours);

  • Preparation presentation: 12 hours;

  • Paper (3.000-4.000 words): 84 hours.

Total course load 10 ec x 28 hours = 280 hours:

  • Amount of lecture: 26 hour (2 hours per week x 13 = 26 hours);

  • Preparation class: 18 hours (1,5 hours per week x 12 = 18 hours);

  • Preparation presentation: 12 hours;

  • Paper (3.00-4.000 words): 84 hours;

  • Preparation oral exam: 140 hours (reading Theaetetus in Greek (100 hours) plus additional secondary literature).

Assessment method


5 ec:

  • Oral presentation (30%);

  • Paper (70%).

10 ec:

  • Oral presentation (20%);

  • Paper (40%);

  • Oral exam (40%).

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

  • MA students will typically be expected to present a passage from the Theaetetus in class and in their paper.

  • ResMA students will typically be expected to study recent overall interpretations of the Theaetetus and present their findings in class and in their paper.


Should the final mark be unsatisfactory, the student, after consultation with the instructor, may rewrite the paper and/or resit the oral exam (if applicable). Second attempts of the oral presentation are only possible if the schedule allows for this. Class attendeance and active participation are compulsory. Students who fail to do so may be excluded from the course.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Distribution of study materials;

  • Communication with students.

Reading list

  • M. Burnyeat, The Theaetetus of Plato with a translation of Plato’s Theaetetus by M.J. Levett, Hackett Publishing Company (Indianapolis, Indiana) 1995 (or later);

  • A Greek text of the Theaetetus, preferably the recent edition in the Oxford Classical Texts series: E.A. Duke et al., Plato Opera, vol. I, Oxford University Press (Oxford) 1995.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. R.M. (Bert) van den Berg